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An evolution: Golden Valley's Maverick Ahanmisi

In three seasons, Maverick Ahanmisi has undergone much change

Posted: February 27, 2009 1:36 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Maverick Ahanmisi is Golden Valley boys basketball's all-time leading scorer. He leads his team into battle tonight against Gahr High.

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It was two years ago that Maverick Ahanmisi sat on a cold bench, head down, while the bright spotlights of a production company encircled the court of Golden Valley High’s gymnasium.

The television program, “CSI,” chose the school as a location to shoot a scene for one of its episodes.

Ahanmisi, today the valley’s premier guard, was clearly uncomfortable.

Just a baby-faced sophomore, he didn’t respond well to interview questions.

He gave one-word answers with no eye contact.

Two years later, the son of a Nigerian father and Filipino mother, has been seen pumping his fists.

He’ll smirk.

And he even gives celebratory roars.

He has evolved.

During a February practice, after eventual Foothill League champion Golden Valley defeated last place Canyon 63-49 in a game much closer than the score indicated, Grizzlies head coach Chris Printz handed out sheets of paper to his players.

He asked them to write three goals for themselves and the team and three pieces of criticism of Printz.

“People were looking at other people’s papers,” Ahanmisi says, indicating that some of his teammates didn’t know what to write.
The senior says he quickly wrote.

For himself, he wrote, “Be a leader, play every moment like it’s your last and have fun.”

For team goals, he wrote “Listen, learn how to take criticism and play together.”

And for his coach, he wrote, “Get more people in when we have a comfortable lead, stay true to your word and don’t be afraid to bench players.”

Even himself.

“It makes me feel a little pride in what we’ve built here,” Printz says of Ahanmisi’s comments. “I don’t think those are the things he wrote when he came in as a freshman (on the frosh/soph team) or as a sophomore on varsity. That’s not just evolution of a player, but evolution of a person.”

Ahanmisi has been a part of a program that grew from a mediocre 13-14 team in his sophomore year, to an 0-10 record in the Foothill League as a junior, to the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIA semifinals — where the Grizzlies will face Gahr High School at Cerritos College tonight at 7:30.

He has had quite a career.

The 6-foot-1-inch combo guard will leave Golden Valley as its all-time leading scorer and 3-point shooter.

Ahanmisi has had some pretty stellar games in his career, but nothing could touch his performance from Tuesday night in a 75-72 win over Foothill High in the Division IIIA quarterfinals.

After missing his first three shots of the game, Ahanmisi hit 12-of-his-last-15 shots including six 3-pointers.

He was 11-of-11 from the free throw line, even scoring his team’s last four points at the line.

Ahanmisi scored 41 points in one of the greatest playoff performances in Santa Clarita Valley history.

He hit 11-of-12 shots in the second and third quarters, tallying 31 points.

“I don’t know. It was just one of those nights where I thought everything would fall,” Ahanmisi says.

For a time period, it appeared that way.

His last four shots were all 3-pointers, everyone of them ripped through the net.

The final two were fadeaway jumpers with hands in his face.

Ahanmisi dribbled up court and settled on the right elbow with ticks left before halftime.

He was suffocated by defensive pressure.

Printz admits that he wanted Ahanmisi to pass it.

There was no way he would.

So he leaned to the right, falling away, and shot the ball.

It bounced off the right side of the glass and angled into the basket.

The skin on teammate Chris White’s forehead folds over as he gives an incredulous look describing that game.

“I played with him all through growing up,” White says. “I have never seen anything like that. It was like watching an NBA star.”

During the run, Ahanmisi pumped his fists, slammed the ball on the hardwood and shrugged — an emotional display that was not in his character, Printz says Ahanmisi is still quiet in class.

The coach and his wife have had him in the classroom.

White says he’s shy when somebody first meets him.

Around people he knows, it’s a different story.

When he’s on the court, he knows everyone in the gym.

Ahanmisi has even displayed some individuality on the court.

He wears socks with pinks and purples. Some of his teammates have even adopted the practice.

Ahanmisi is now setting an example.

He’s a shower, not a talker.

It goes back to that sophomore year.

“It was kind of brutal,” he said of the 2006-07 season. “We went through a lot. A lot of team fights, arguments.”

Ahanmisi led the team with 12.5 points per game. He was the only sophomore on a squad with 10 seniors.

The 2007-08 season wasn’t much better as he was counted on to provide so much.

“There was honestly a lot of burden on my shoulders,” he says.

He led the team again with 15.8 points per game. There were nine seniors on that team.

But this year has been a major difference.

Ahanmisi has a strong surrounding cast. He doesn’t have to be the go-to-guy, yet he’s scoring a team-high 20.2 points per game.

“This year, he has evolved into a leader for us,” Printz says. “I don’t know what he’s going to do in the future. I know I’m going to enjoy him playing in college. After that, he’s going to be successful in anything he does.”

His high school evolution is nearly complete.

He may have been uncomfortable as an underclassman.

Not any more.

“I’m really relaxed now,” he says making eye contact, his head held high.


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